Wednesday, November 21, 2012

At The Toronto Zoo (Part 2)

So today we continue with part two of photos from The Toronto Zoo, and a little bit of information about some of the animals.

We start with the Pygmy hippopotamus, which is found primarily in Liberia, but also in the neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast, although in smaller numbers. This hippo is less aquatic than the river type, and spends most of its time on land. It’s also nocturnal in nature, sleeping the day away happily until it begins to forage during late evening to about midnight. You’d never guess that it likes to snooze the day away by this photo that was taken in early afternoon, would you? [snort]

The next image was taken in the Great Barrier Reef Exhibit, which is within the Australasia Pavilion. There were oodles of amazing photo opportunities, but because it was so busy in there, I was limited to a couple of pictures (and a lot of disappointment). I will have to spend more time in that pavilion on my next visit...even if it means elbowing a few people. (Only slightly joking...)

Below are a couple of images of Indian peafowls, birds that you’ll find roaming freely around the park. I’d hoped to capture a photo of one of these pretty creaturies with its feathers spread out, but it just didn’t happen for me.

Did you know that this is the national bird of India? I had no idea. And did you also know that although this bird is simply called a peacock that it only applies to the male? Yup. Apparently, the females are known as peahens and the young are called peachicks.

Below are images of the heavily-armoured West African dwarf crocodile, the smallest extant crocodile species in the world, attaining a medium adult length of about 2 metres (6.5 feet).

In the wild, this dwarf crocodile can be found in smaller bodies of water (ponds, creeks, backwaters) throughout West Africa.

The West African dwarf crocodile is nocturnal and generally solitary, although it will tolerate living in close proximity to another if need be.

For the most part, the visit at the zoo was enjoyable from a photographer’s point of view, but I must confess that my heart was a little heavy that day seeing animals ‘behind bars’. That really hit home when my husband said “There is nothing sadder than a gorilla in captivity.” There really isn’t.

This is the Western lowland gorilla, a subspecies of the western gorillas. It lives in montane, primary, and secondary forests and lowland swamps in central Africa in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, and it is the gorilla usually found in zoos.

As is the case with many animals, humans are the primary threat to the survival of gorillas. Surprise, surprise...

Another sad sight of an animal in captivity is the African elephant in the images below; the largest land mammal on earth. It can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the rain forests of central and West Africa.

The Toronto Zoo states on its website that “the African Elephant faces an uncertain future. Although many exist in Africa, unregulated and/or illegal trade in ivory could lead to their demise. Human encroachment and the conversion of habitat to farmlands are also serious threats to their survival. In addition, elephant/human conflict is on the rise. They are known to have become nationally extinct in Burundi, Gambia, and Mauritania.”

As I work on these posts, I am repeatedly reminded of how much damage us humans do in this world, and how many animals we have driven, and continue to drive, into extinction. Our behaviour as a species is truly shameful.

Next, we have the river hippopotamus, which is the 3rd largest land mammal after the elephant and white rhino. It can be found in Africa, south of the Sahara to Namibia and South Africa. Its habitat consists of ponds, lakes, rivers and wallows during the day, and grasslands and forests at night.

A hippo spends most of its day in the water, and it can stay under water longer than 15 minutes, so if it has just submerged itself when you click on that camera, you’ll have to wait awhile for that photo opportunity (something I learned that day).

Did you also know that a hippo has webbed feet? I didn’t either. That’s pretty cool. When it’s completely submerged, a reflex action ensures that the nostrils and the ears are closed by muscular valves as soon as they come into contact with the water.

When the animal does finally emerge air in the lungs is expelled in an explosive burst as soon the surfaces is reached, and the ears are wagged to clear them of water. A hippo sleeps underwater, and it resurfaces to breathe as automatically as breathing itself. Simply fascinating.

Since we’ve covered the first and third largest land animals, we may as well cover the second, which is the white rhino in the photo below. In the early 20th century, white rhinos were almost at the edge of extinction, but, after years of protection and many translocations, they have made a substantial comeback. Sizeable populations are found in various national parks, state protected areas, and private reserves. The main threat to their survival guessed it...humans!

The animal below is the snow leopard, which can be found in the mountains of twelve countries across Central Asia. There are between 4,000 and 6,500 of these endangered big cats left in the wild. And cnce again, it is human activities that pose a serious threat to this beautiful cat and its habitat. Truly sad.

We end today’s Toronto Zoo post with the capybara; the largest rodent in the world. It stands about two feet tall, and is native to South America. It inhabits savannas and dense forests, and lives near bodies of water. Its closest relatives are agouti, chinchillas, coyphillas, and guinea pigs. It is a highly social species and can be found in groups as large as 100, although it usually lives in groups of 10 – 20. And you’re worried about finding a little mouse in your home? Imagine an infestation of capybaras? [shudder]

Come back tomorrow for the final installment of the zoo series...

See also:
At The Toronto Zoo (Part 1)
At The Toronto Zoo (Part 3)


  1. aw babies<333 lovely fotos, but yes, share your exact sentiment of captivity animals :/

    1. They are all lovely animals, but sadly, not in their natural habitat.

  2. Who knew I had so much in common with the Pygmy hippo? I know what you mean about seeing these animals in captivity. It is so sad to see gorillas cooped up, I hate it. I don't like seeing so many creatures like tigers and lions this way either. As for the crocodile though, that's the only way I ever want to see one - on the other side of a fence of some kind. They scare the hell out of me! Great pix.

    1. silly kitty!

      It is very sad to see gorillas in captivity. You get the sense that they are depressed. They should be free.

  3. Very thought provoking, martha. I for one am glad toronto has agreed to send its zoo elephants to a warmer climate. Anyway, you've covered a lot of ground and I'm trying to figure out what is coming... spiders??? bats and all kinds of creepy things or warm fuzzy things like llamas?? Hmmmm

    1. I am happy about that too, Francie. That's where they should be.

  4. 'When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn?' so goes the song....

    This is truly a great series you have going here, Martha. The photos and the dialogue are very good. I'm with you on the gorilla, what a sad looking creature behind bars. Makes me wonder.....

    1. It is very sad looking. These animals are so intelligent, which makes the matter even worse.

  5. The hippo is truly a fascinating animal! That dwarf crocodile is so prehistoric looking - it's got to be one of the creepiest creatures there. I also share your feelings about animals in captivity - it's a real catch-22 because we enjoy seeing them - or we wouldn't visit the zoo and they are an educational tool, but when you look into that gorilla's eyes and see the intelligence behind them... something tells me a true sign we as humans have evolved will be when we dismantle all zoos.

    1. Yes, that crocodile really does look prehistoric. It looks creepy, but it's also fascinating. All that armour!

      I think that will definitely be a true sign that we have evolved. That in addition to when we stop threatening their existence.

  6. I like capybaras. They always have such an F.U. look on their faces.

  7. The gorilla got me and I was mush after that...those eyes..